24 Best Places to Visit in South of Italy

South Italy covers a large area of Italy itself. This region has a variety of cultures and customs due to it being controlled at various times by the Greeks, the Romans, Byzantines, Normans, and the Etruscans. 

As a region, Southern Italy has a great deal to offer holidaymakers and tourists. It has bustling cities, spectacular coastlines and historical buildings or places to explore. Going to Southern Italy is something that gives tourists plenty of things to see and do. Treat yourself to a holiday in one of Italy’s most fascinating regions.

There is plenty to marvel at and enjoy in South Italy, ranging from mountain trails, old castles, awe-inspiring churches, and modern bridges that are feats of civil engineering. This part of Italy has much for visitors to experience.

Here are the 24 best places to visit in south of Italy:

1. City of Naples

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At one point before Italy was a united country. Naples was a kingdom in its own right. This busy port city is one of the productive parts of the Italian economy. As it is the busiest port in Italy you could spend some time looking at the docks and watch the ships go in and out of the harbor. Besides there been the port, Naples has got historical sights to visit, like the imposing Castle Nuovo. Sports fans could take a look around the football ground too, though Napoli had their golden era in the 1980s with Diego Maradona their star performer.

2. Lecce

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Piazza del Duomo by Giuseppe Milo, via flickr.comCC BY 2.0

Found in one of the most Southerly parts of Italy, Lecce is located on the Adriatic coast and is a great place for people interested in history to visit. Lecce is known for having a type of stone called Lecce stone quarried there and the historical buildings in the area are built from it. This area has some fantastic piazzas that are definitely worth walking around.

3. Bari

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This coastal city has a port and other historical attractions, and a modern district for tourists that prefer fine restaurants and trendy shops. This is one of the most popular tourist destinations in South Italy and once you arrive there you will soon understand why this is the case. The old town has some must see sights for those lovers of history such as the church at San Nicola, the cathedral and also the castle at Svevo. There are plenty of things to see in these narrow and winding old streets. After looking at the historical sites go to the modern stores and the local restaurants, or head straight there if history is not your thing really.

4. Travel the Amalfi Coast

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One way to see this part of South Italy is to get on a train or bus and travel from Naples to Salerno. The views from the train especially are awesome as you ride through mountains and valleys. The Amalfi is actually a protected area of Italy, with fantastic scenic views, quaint villages, and historical locations. Catching the train or the bus allows you to relax and take photos along the route, without having to keep your eyes on the road if you were driving instead. Taking the train is the recommended way to see the most out of the Amalfi coast. Watch out for all of the brightly decorated homes you will go by, perfect photo opportunities at several points during the journey.

5. Pescara

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Pescara lies on the South Western coast of Italy and is well known for its local fishing industry. When you visit here to sit and watch the fishing boats when their crews are fishing or on the way back. The Ponte Del Mare is a modern suspension bridge that allows you to cross from one side of the port to the other on foot or on a cycle. If you like beaches with well-equipped amenities then Pescara is almost certainly the place for you to visit and relax in.

6. Cantanzaro

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Ponte Bisantis by Nchiriano, via wikipedia.com, CC BY-SA 3.0

This town is towards the bottom of the Italian leg on the map. It is located in the mountains and goes all the way down to the shore. Visitors can enjoy climbing, hiking or if they want to spend less energy relaxing on the beach. Cantanzaro features a Biodiversity Park that includes a kids playground as well as a military museum. Take a walk around the fascinating botanical gardens while you take a tour of this park. Just on the outskirts of town is the Ponte Bisantis, which is a marvel of modern engineering and provides a spectacular view.

7. Palermo – Sicilian capital

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The island of Sicily has been one of the most fought over parts of Italy. When you visit the island’s capital of Palermo you will be able to see the influence of different cultures and powers. One place in the city where all those influences can be viewed is the awe-inspiring cathedral. Definitely one of the best places in Italy.

8. Brindisi

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Lungomare Regina Margherita di Brindisi by Fiurl11, via wikipedia.com, CC BY-SA 4.0

Brindisi is a historical port just to the north of Lecce, with things to see and buildings of historical interest. Like most Southern Italian cities it has its own castle and cathedral. The castle in Brindisi is actually on the little isle of Sant’ Andrea just across from the port. The port itself consists of twin prongs, and it is interesting to watch the ships go in and out to sea for a couple of hours. It is also home to the Monument to Italian Sailors. Brindisi was founded by the Ancient Greeks, and there is a myth that the city was established by the hero Diomedes.

9. Barletta

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Emilydreamer 1989 / Public domain

Located on the Eastern coast of Italy is the port of Barletta, it is good for walks and historical sites. Perhaps the best-known site in and around Barletta is the Castello Svevo. This large and impressive fortress was built by the Normans (not entirely sure how they persuaded anybody to carry stones up that hill). Once you have been on a walk and looked around the castle, you can relax on one of the beaches near to the port.

10. Foggia

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This particular part of South Italy is close to the National Park of Gargano and has some notable parks of it’s, like the Parco Karol Wojtyla (named after Pope John Paul II). Foggia is in a mainly agricultural area of the country and is an important part of the national transport network as well.

11. Capri

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The South of Italy has its fair share of islands. Capri is one of the larger islands and is located close to Naples. It is also fairly close to Pompeii should you want to visit there. This island is beautiful in itself and it is worth enjoying a walk around it. If you like to party at night this could well be your island, as there are some popular nightclubs.

12. City of Catania

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Catania is the second biggest city in Sicily after Palermo and is also the seventh-largest city in Italy as a whole. The city has an impressive castle as well as a fine cathedral. Given the strategic location of Sicily and the various powers that wanted to take control of it, the construction of a castle was no surprise. Catania is a better location to get a view of Mount Etna than Messina, and most days you will be able to see this still active volcano smoldering.

13. The Volcanic Island of Ischia

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Ischia is larger than the nearby island of Capri. This island is notable for having a volcano on it, and the terrain is rugged and rocky. This island is home to a castle built when the Aragonese were in control of it, a few picturesque villages, and beaches where you can relax.

14. National Park of Gargano

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If you want to see parts of Italy unspoilt by large built-up areas then the huge national park of Gargano is the place to go. Gargano is located on the Adriatic coast, on the Eastern side of Italy. To provide an indication of how large the national park is, it fills an area of 110,000 hectares. This is an area to visit if you like hillwalking and hiking. The scenes walking along the coastline are breathtaking, while you stop off in some of the small towns within the park to have something to eat and buy souvenirs.

15. City of Messina

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Messina is a historical port city in Sicily. It is famous for its port and its architecture. It has an impressive cathedral with a well-known bell tower located in the main piazza. There are some good restaurants in the city, while there are beaches a short distance away. Messina is separated from the Italian mainland by the Straits of Messina, which you cross on the regular ferry services.

16. Maratea

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Visitors to Maratea will be impressed by the Medieval buildings in this town. It is one of the most popular holiday spots in the South of Italy for both Italians and foreigners so you have to book a hotel stay well in advance, or find somewhere else to stay. It is certainly worth visiting for the coastal views and seeing the old town.

17. Sorrento

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Sorrento has most of what tourists want, great views, plenty of history, nice shops, and out of this world seafood. Whether staying in Sorrento or just visiting on a day trip it is in a great location. It is close to Capri and Naples, while you can enjoy a fine view of Mount Vesuvius on the way to and from visiting Pompeii. A visit to Pompeii is only a short ferry ride away. 

It should not take you too long to find a place to buy gelato from either.

18. Paestum

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Not all of the ancient buildings in Italy were built by the Romans, those in Paestum were built by the Greeks. This town features a temple dedicated to Poseidon the Greek God of the sea. A trip is worth making for the well preserved Greek temples and everything else in the town is a real bonus.

19. Alberobello and it’s Trulli architecture

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What makes the Alberobello stand out from any other town or city in Italy is that it is the place that has the best and most complete examples of Trulli style architecture. In other words, this is the best place to see really stylish buildings from the 14th century. Trulli buildings stand out due to having cone-shaped roofs.

20. The island of Tropea

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Legend has it that only Hercules was strong enough to build the town of Tropea (no wonder he was renowned for his great strength). Whoever built the old town did a good job of it.

21. Castelmola

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Castelmola, Sicily by DavidGeen, via flickr.com, CC BY-ND 2.0

If you are prepared to make the steep climb up to the small town of Castelmola you will benefit by seeing the best views on the island of Sicily. This town is not as popular or as busy as the larger town of Taormina. 

It is worth the extra climb for a better view, a more authentic town, and emptier streets.

22. The Ruins Pompeii and Herculaneum

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Pompeii is a Roman town made famous by the fact that it was destroyed by a volcanic eruption, which preserved many of its unfortunate population in ashes. You can now visit the place where 3,000 people died. In peak holiday season there will often be queues to buy the tickets to have a look around the town.

23. Matera – history and tasty desserts

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The town of Matera has a whole load of history in the guise of ancient cave buildings to visit. If you happen to be visiting in the height of summer, cool down after all the sightseeing by indulging in Matera’s cold and tasty gelato.

24. Castelmezzano

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The town of Castelmezzano is often described as one of the most scenic and wonderful places to visit or stay in the whole of Southern Italy. A thousand people normally live in this town though several thousand stay each week during the height of the summer holidays.